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Posted 12 May 2011
The Otterholt House Massacre
An investigation by Inspector Stagg
& the State Police Criminal Investigation Bureau
of New Haven - 1926
Chapter 6
By Walter D. Reimer

The Otterholt House Massacre

© 2009 by Walter D. Reimer

(The Stagg Family courtesy of Eric Costello. Thanks!)

Chapter 6

Collegiate School
Monday May 24

         The terrier and the rat stood by as the dormitory’s proctor and the Dean of Students opened the door to Stevenson’s room.  “Hard to believe that we had a murderer here,” the Dean muttered.
        “He’s only accused,” Michaels said.  “He ain’t guilty yet.”
        “Close enough, according to the papers,” the proctor, a fat bear, remarked as he found the right key and opened the door.
        “Ah, what do the papers know,” Detective Proctor said.  “Most of ‘em are good for wrapping fish, and that’s all.”  He stepped in front of the bear and eased the door open, looking around.
        The weight of evidence against the rabbit had increased when his shoes had been examined.  The tread pattern was a close match for the shoeprints found in the Otterholt House.  No cuts were found on his paws on a cursory inspection, but a small nick could have healed up.
        The room held two beds, two dressers, desks and chairs, and a closet.  The bathroom was communal, down the hallway to the left.  A blue Collegiate pennant hung from one wall, and the rat could see clothes hanging in the closet.
        “Okay, we’ll take it from here,” he said.  “If we need anything we’ll yell.”
        The Dean harrumphed and walked away, while the bear hung around a while, watching interestedly as the two detectives entered the room.
        The two detectives had already decided on the best approach, so they each took a side, carefully checking the bedding, mattresses and bed frames before moving on to the other furniture.  Examination of the dressers followed, then the desks and chairs.
        “What the hell’s this?” the rat asked, holding up a small stub of what looked like a grease pencil.
        “Looks like a styptic pencil.”
        “A hoowhat?”
        “Styptic pencil,” Michaels said.  “Some furs – well, they shave, y’know.  That’s used to close up small cuts.”
        “That so?  What do you know about shaving?”
        “Ain’t telling,” the terrier said as he took the pencil from Proctor and dropped it in a bag.
        After a further half-hour Michaels was checking the window frame and started when several students down the hall started singing.  From the slurred words and disjointed tune most of the group was drunk:
Mademoiselle from Old Dock Street, Parley-voo?
Mademoiselle from Old Dock Street, Parley-voo?
Her fur’s falling out, her knees will knock,
And her muzzle can stop a cuckoo clock,
Hinky, dinky, parley-voo.
        Proctor shook his head and snorted.  “College students.  Well, that looks like that.  We only got the closet left to do.”
        “Okay.”  The terrier opened the door and the two started removing items of clothing from their hangers, searching each one carefully before laying it aside on the bed.  When the closet was empty they switched on an electric torch and started to examine the closet itself.
        “Hold it,” Proctor said.  “Get the camera and the ruler.”  He held the beam of light on a small scrap of yellowish-brown paper in a far corner of the closet.  He laid the ruler down beside it, then took several pictures from the closet doorway and close up before picking the paper up with tweezers and holding it up to the light.
        The scrap of paper looked as if it had been torn in half vertically, and appeared to be a label.  Signs of the gum adhesive could be seen on one side, and the other side bore paw-written cursive letters:
        The rat grinned toothily at the terrier, who matched the grin.  “As my grandma says,” Proctor laughed, “’Bingo.’”


27 River Avenue, North Haven

        “Excuse me, Ma’am, is this the Stevenson residence?” the raccoon asked, doffing his hat politely and holding it in his paws as the rabbit doe opened the door.  The house was part of a good neighborhood – not exactly wealthy, but not exactly a slum, either.  The road behind him and Detective Banner was lined with oak trees.
        It was a cloudy morning, promising rain by the afternoon.
        “Yes, I’m Mrs. Stevenson,” the doe said in a guarded tone.  She was dressed in a floral chintz dress and an apron.  “Who are you?”
        “Ma’am, I’m Sergeant DiAngelo of the State Police,” and Frank produced his badge.  “This is Detective Banner.  We’d like to ask you a few questions regarding your son.”
        The door slammed in his face.
        “You can go to hell!” the woman shouted from behind the door.  “Talk to my husband!”
        “Where can we find your husband, Ma’am?” DiAngelo asked.  He willed himself to be patient and resisted the temptation to kick the door down.  “Ma’am?”
        When she replied, her voice was breaking into sobs.  “City Hall.”
        The two detectives looked at each other.  “City Hall,” Banner said.
        “I bet we ain’t gonna like this a bit,” DiAngelo said.


1 State Street, North Haven

        Finding the center of North Haven’s city government was fairly simple, and the receptionist at the front desk was very helpful.  “Mr. Stevenson?” the raccooness echoed, batting her lashes at DiAngelo.  “Oh!  You mean Mayor Stevenson.  His office is upstairs.”
        Mayor?  Frank thought.
        Santa Maria.  I thought he was only an alderman.
        “Thanks,” Frank said pleasantly.  He and Banner headed for the stairs and went up one floor.
        ROGER G. STEVENSON, read the painted legend on the door, MAYOR.
        “Hoo boy,” Banner sighed.  
        The secretary heard them out, then excused herself and went into the inner office.  A low conversation ensued, and she emerged to say, “He’ll see you now, gentlemen.”
        Mayor Stevenson turned out to be an older copy of Wyatt, with graying fur and bifocals.  He stood and straightened his vest as Banner and DiAngelo walked in and all three shook paws.  “Good morning, gentlemen,” he said with a practiced smile.  “What can I do for you?”
        “Sir, I’m Sergeant DiAngelo, and this is Detective Banner.  We’d like to ask you a few questions regarding your son.”
        “Yes, my wife just got off the phone with me.  She’s quite upset over all this.”
        “I apologize for that, Sir.  All we had was his home address – “
        “Understandable, Sergeant.  Not your fault.”  The rabbit sat down in a leather armchair behind his desk.  “I’d be upset as well, but fortunately I know the truth about this.”
        Frank blinked.  “The truth, Sir?”
        “Yes, the truth.  Oh, I didn’t expect you two to know this, Sergeant.  You’re only doing what you’re told, of course.  My son is, quite naturally, being framed.”
        “’Framed,’ Sir?”
        “Yes, framed.  This is a very well-crafted, but quite transparent, ploy to discredit me politically.  If there’s anyone to blame for my son’s arrest, it’s Stagg.”
        “Chief Stagg?”
        “I’m sure he may have a paw in it,” Stevenson said as he lit a cigarette.  “But the Stagg I refer to is his brother Prescott.  You see, his Civic Union Party’s been trying to gain the mayoralty here in North Haven for over ten years.  This town’s Progressive Alliance and proud of it, but he never will stop intriguing.”  He paused and took a few drags on his cigarette.  “By railroading my son, he undermines me in the eyes of the voters here, see?”
        “Sir, be that as it may, I have to do my job – “
        “Of course, of course.  I wanted to get that off my chest.  Rest assured, however, that I will be filing suit against the State Police for false arrest and unlawful prosecution.  Now,” and he sat back in his chair, “what are your questions?”
        Frank DiAngelo sat blinking at the rabbit for a few seconds, then caught himself and opened his notebook.  “We, er, have your son’s academic records, Your Honor, but we’re just looking for some background on him.  You know, home and family life – things like that.”
        “Hmm.  Wyatt’s me and Adelaide’s oldest – he has a brother and two sisters.  I had thought he’d get a job with me at the bank, but he wanted to go to medical school.  Collegiate has gone a bit downhill since I went there, but their medical school’s good.  You heard he was studying to become a pediatrician?”
        Both detectives nodded.
        “A very noble calling,” the elder Stevenson said.  “Children are the only true innocents, you know.  Hmm, what else?  Wyatt was an altar boy up at Saint Thomas’ . . . I’m not quite sure what you’re fishing for, Sergeant.  Wyatt’s always been a good boy.”
        “Thank you, Sir.  You’ve been very helpful,” and DiAngelo and Banner stood.  “Sorry to bother you.”
        “No need to apologize, Sergeant,” Stevenson said as they shook paws, “but I’ve been bothered, and now it’s my turn to bother them.  Have a safe trip back to New Haven City.”


NHSP Headquarters

        “He said what?” Chief Stagg asked.
        Paulie repeated what DiAngelo had reported, and he watched the whitetail buck sag backward in his chair.  “This is what comes of having a bad reputation for so many years,” he muttered.  “Is our evidence solid?”
        “As solid as we can make it, Sir, and we’re still working on one other piece – two, actually.”
        “What are they?”
        “There’s a piece of gum with paper wrapped around it.  The paper could be a trolley ticket but we can’t be certain until it’s unwrapped.  Professor Braganza is working on it.  The other missing piece is the bottle that matches the piece of label we found.”
        Stagg nodded to himself.  “Make sure you contact the Chief Prosecutor’s office today and arrange to have the evidence and witness lists sent over.  We can’t afford any mistakes.”


NHSP Crime Laboratory
Wednesday May 26

        Professor Braganza grinned as Detective Proctor walked in.  The goat said, “Good afternoon.”
        “Hi, Prof,” the rat said.  “Phone message said ya got something?”
        “Yes.  I’ve managed to get that ticket separated from the gum it was wrapped around.  Had to freeze the gum, then sliced it.”
        “Great!  Ticket, eh?”
        Braganza nodded.  “Trolley ticket.”  He used a pair of tweezers to pick up the piece of paper, now encased in cellophane.  “Hard getting all that gum removed, I’ll tell you, but the printing’s still largely intact.”
        “So, what trolley?”
        “See for yourself.  New Haven Blue Line.”
        Proctor took the ticket and looked at it.  “Blue Line, huh.  Any prints?”
        “Yes,” and the goat pointed at the back of the ticket.  “It’s only a partial, but what’s there matches the suspect’s fingerprints.”
        “Great work, Prof.”


Blue Line Trolley Barn

        Michaels quickened his step to get out of the path of an arriving trolley and his ears flattened at the noise inside the barn.  Trolleys were being worked on while others were either departing or arriving.  The terrier made his way to the dispatcher’s office and knocked.
        He walked in to see a harried mastiff camped behind a desk piled high with paperwork.  A roster hung from the wall behind him along with a calendar featuring a strategically-undraped bear femme.  Several clipboards teetered on a chair.  
        The canine looked up at him and put out his cigar.  “Who’re you?  We ain’t hiring.”
        Michaels showed his badge.  “I already got a job, and it’s asking you questions.”
        “Oh yeah?”
        A grin split the burly dog’s muzzle.  “Easiest job I’ve had to do all day.  Whatcha got?”
        After taking down the man’s name the terrier asked, “You got the records for car number 126?”  He’d memorized the car number off the ticket before coming down to the barn.
        “I’m looking for May eleventh and twelfth.  I need the route and who was working it that night.”
        “Okay.”  A clipboard was pulled from the stack and consulted, then another.  “Eight to four, or four to midnight?”
        “Okay.”  Two sheets of paper were yanked out of the clipboard and given to the terrier, who slipped them into a bag.  “Hey!  Whatcha doin’?”
        “Taking them.  They’re evidence.”
        “Don’t give me that crap.  We get audited at the end of the month, an’ the union’ll get pissed–“
        “I’ll write ya a note, okay?  Now, where are these guys?”


O’Malley’s Liquors
213 Conti Street, 1730:

         Conti Street had earned the sobriquet ‘Rotgut Row’ from the large number of liquor stores in the area, a collection that ran nearly six blocks along the Blue Line’s route from the center of New Haven City to Republic Station.  Visitors from the United States would usually take the trolley along the road and stop there to purchase alcohol before returning to home and Prohibition, giving the street its nickname.
        O’Malley’s was the sixth shop Michaels had entered, and there were still seven more on the stretch of road.
        A small bell jingled as he walked into the shop and the bear behind the counter said, “Hi, friend!  What can I do for you?”
        The terrier introduced himself and asked, “Blue Line comes by here all the time?”
        “Sure does.”
        “I know it’s been a couple weeks, but do you recall seeing this guy back on the eleventh?” and Michaels showed the ursine a copy of Stevenson’s mug shot.
        “Hmm.  He from around here?”
        “Not this neighborhood.”
        “No, I meant is he from this country?  I get a lot of foreigners.”
        “He’s not a Yank.”
        “Hmm . . . “  The bear cupped his chin with a paw as he gazed at the photograph, then snapped his fingers.  “Got it!”
        “You remember him, then?” Michaels tried to hide his relief.  Any more liquor stores and he was seriously considering getting drunk.  “He might have bought a bottle – “
        “Of Housatonic, right?”
        “How do you remember that?”
        The bear waved a paw at the racks of bottles.  “Some of the people come in here are regulars, from around here,” he explained, “so they know what to buy.  Tourists, though, don’t know no better.  They buy the Housatonic ‘cause it’s cheap, so they think they’re getting a bargain.”  He shrugged.  “Just seemed odd that a guy with a New Haven accent – who ain’t a wino – would be buyin’ that cheap stuff.  Seemed odd to me.”
        Michaels took down the bear’s statement and name, then bought a bottle of GlenMacCumhail Scotch.
        He would want a drink later.
        Right now he had to take the trolley back to the barn.



        Michaels had called and asked Banner to join him at the trolley barn, and the two of them stood looking at Car 126 as it sat on a small spur of track.  “You sure about this?” the tabby asked.
        “Yeah, you know the Boss is gonna want this thing searched, just to be sure.”
        “I don’t know what you hope to find,” the shop steward remarked irritably.  “We clean the cars every night after they get to the barn.”
        “Well, you know bosses – ours would get steamed if we didn’t look at everything.  We’ll let you know if we find anything,” Michaels said as the two detectives opened their Murder Box and started to work.
        Despite the shop steward’s protestations there was ample dirt and grime under the benches and in dark corners, shoved there by brooms and mops.  Banner and Michaels worked carefully along the length of the car, using electric torches to light their way.
        “Good thing this thing ain’t a double-decker, ain’t it?” Banner asked.  He grinned at Michaels’ grunt and added, “I mean, we got the guy dead to rights – hey!  What’s that?”
        “What’s what?” Michaels asked.
        “Got something, I think, way in the back there.”  Banner sat back on his haunches.  “You’ve got longer arms, I can’t reach it.”
        “Here, let me – Stubby,” and Michaels chuckled as Banner growled at him.  He grunted as he stretched out prone, reaching as far as he could.  “Hang on, almost got a finger on it . . . got it!  Watch your feet,” and he swept the object out into the open aisle between the benches.
        “Yech!” Banner yelped at the sight of the used condom.  “I thought they said these things was clean.”
        “Yeah, lucky you – your arms are shorter,” Michaels grumbled, still under the bench.  “Pass me that torch.”
        Banner did so, and after a moment Michaels said, “That lambskin was covering something.  Let me . . . okay, got it.  Coming out.”  The terrier, looking a bit grimy, wormed his way out from under the bench and sat back.  “Whew!  Cramped under there.”
        “What did you find?”
        “This.”  He held up a small brown glass bottle impaled on a pencil, with a torn paper label.  “Writing matches the label me and Proctor found.  Empty; looks like he dumped the whole thing into the whiskey.”  He pulled a small cellophane bag from his pocket and bagged the bottle.  “Here, lend me a paw.”
        “Which one did you grab that lambskin with?” Banner asked, recoiling.


Superior Court Building
Courtroom One
Monday July 31, 0800:

        The chamber, constructed in a severe Gothic style, was large and the gallery was filling quickly as members of the press and others entered.  No one had entered the well of the courtroom yet, and some in the gallery remarked upon the small table before the Bench that bore a simple pair of black leather gloves and a square of black cloth.
        It was the Black Cap, symbol of the Court’s power to inflict the supreme sanction for murder.
        The onlookers in the gallery slowly stopped talking as the chief bailiff stepped into the courtroom and announced, “The Superior Court of the Republic of New Haven is now in session!  All those having business before this Honorable Court are enjoined to draw near!  God save the Republic, and this Honorable Court!”  
        A bare beat later and the audience rose as the bailiff intoned, “Hear ye, hear ye, the case of the Republic of New Haven versus Wyatt Gerard Stevenson is now being heard.  The Honorable Judge Abraham Kilbride is presiding,” and a black-robed and bewigged wolfhound stepped in and took his position at the Bench.  He remained standing, as did the audience, as the jury filed into their box and the attorneys took their positions.  When the jury sat, Kilbride took his seat and gaveled for order.
        “Is the Defense ready?” Kilbride asked.
        Maxwell Galbraith, a portly bulldog, rose and bowed.  “The Defense is ready, Your Honor.”
        “Is the Prosecution ready?”
        John King, a red-tailed hawk, stood and did likewise.  “The Republic stands ready, Your Honor.”
        “Bailiff, admit the accused.”
        The chief bailiff called out, “Wyatt Gerard Stevenson, come into the Court!”
        Heads turned as the rabbit was led into the courtroom by two bailiffs, and took his seat in the dock.  His fur was clean and well-groomed and he was dressed in a new suit.  He looked up at the gallery and smiled shyly when he caught sight of his father and mother.
        Kilbride said, “The Court will entertain opening statements.  Mr. Prosecutor.”
        “Thank you, Your Honor.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May twelfth a man stole through a sleeping house and viciously murdered five young women.  Women, I hasten to add, that were studying to become nurses.  The Prosecution’s case, ladies and gentlemen, is clear – that based upon the evidence the Republic will prove beyond all doubt that the five awful murders on that fateful night were done by the man you see before you in the dock, one Wyatt Stevenson.”  The hawk bowed to the Bench and resumed his seat.
        Galbraith stood and paused a moment as if in thought before saying, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it is with great regret that we mourn the passing of those five young women, their lives cut off so brutally.  But the man you see before you in the dock is not the man who could do this.  My task is a simple one, ladies and gentlemen – my task is to save this young man’s life, for he is innocent.  Yes, innocent I say,” and he raised his voice against a murmured susurrus from the gallery.  “Against the might and power of this Republic, only I and the truth stand to defend this young man.  I relish this task, because I shall win.”  He eased himself back into his chair.
        “Is the Republic ready to proceed with its case?”
        “Yes, Your Honor.”
        “Call your first witness.”
        “The Republic calls Lisa Daniels,” and the trial began.


        King was an experienced prosecutor.  He steadily built the case against Stevenson piece by piece, using evidence and the testimony of witnesses to paint a portrait of the young rabbit as a jilted lover who had finally had enough of the five women who had scorned him in turn.  
        Galbraith, on the other paw, worked to cast doubt on the credibility of the witnesses (concentrating on the dead girls’ reputations as ‘loose women’) and questioned the State Police’s handling of the case and the veracity of the evidence.  He concluded his cross-examination of the last of the girls at the Otterholt House in time for the lunch recess.
        Many spectators in the gallery found it hard to tear themselves away from the action unfolding beneath them even though there was an equally fascinating case developing in the adjacent courtroom.  There the civil case of Stevenson v. Drake was in progress, pitting the Mayor of North Haven against the Prime Minister and Government of the Republic on charges of false arrest and unlawful prosecution in furtherance of a political agenda.  Prescott Stagg, leader of the Civic Union Party, was a featured witness.
        Prime Minister Nelson Drake had pled sovereign immunity, a plea that had been granted by Governor Nutella.  The squirrel, while quite willing to let the conservative gander avoid the trial, did not extend the same courtesy to the whitetail buck.  Watchers in the gallery at that trial had been laying bets as to how long Prescott could contain his well-known and volatile temper.
        The spectators gave their full attention, though, when the bailiff said, “The Court calls Lieutenant Paul Pentaleoni to the stand!”
        The red deer had thought about wearing his State Police uniform, but had instead opted for his best suit.  He walked past the dock and stepped into the witness box as the clerk stood by with a Bible.
        Paulie took the book in his left paw and raised his right paw.  “Before Almighty God I swear that the testimony I shall give shall be the whole truth,” gave the Bible back to the clerk and sat down.
        King stood, smoothing his neck feathers down with a paw.  “Please give us your name, who you work for and for how long, for the record please.”
        “Paul Pentaleoni.  I am a Detective Lieutenant with the New Haven State Police.  I have served with the State Police since 1906.”
        “Thank you, Lieutenant.  You were lead investigator on this case?”
        “Please tell the jury the sequence of events leading up to the murders.”
        “Yes, Sir.  We determined, by careful examination of the evidence and through accounts by witnesses, that the Defendant – “
        “That would be Mr. Stevenson?”
        “Go on.”
        “The Defendant purchased a bottle of Housatonic Blended Whiskey from O’Malley’s Liquors on Conti Street on the night of May eleventh.  He was observed by the trolley’s conductor taking a drink from the bottle as the trolley made its usual route.  The closest stop to the Otterholt House is at Green Avenue, a distance of six blocks.”
        “How long does it take for the Blue Line trolley to go from O’Malley’s Liquors to the Green Avenue stop?”
        “Thirty minutes.”
        “How do you know that?”
        “We timed it.”
        “Go on, Lieutenant.”
        “We believe that the Defendant added the contents of a one-ounce bottle of chloral hydrate to the contents of the whiskey bottle during the trip,” Paulie said.  “We determined that the party at the Otterholt’s boarding house started at about eight P.M. and lasted until ten.  Mr. Otterholt states that the last male member of the party left by ten-fifteen.”
        “But Mr. Stevenson was unaccounted for.”
        Galbraith, who had been sitting quietly, said, “Objection.  Calls for opinion on the part of the witness.”
        King turned to the Bench.  “Your Honor, we are basing this on the evidence at paw, along with testimony by the surviving women.”
        Judge Kilbride nodded.  “Objection overruled.”
        “Go ahead, Lieutenant.”
        “Mr. Stevenson was, according to many of the witnesses, a very quiet fur, and he had been at the house several times before.  Based on the evidence he hid in a disused coal cellar to avoid being made to leave.  While there he wrapped his gum up in the trolley ticket he had, discarding it in the cellar.  He waited until the lights were out before moving.”
        “Is there any other evidence that Mr. Stevenson was in the coal cellar?”
        “Yes.  Two shoeprints.  The tread pattern and size match his.  And there were traces of coal dust.”
        “I see.  Now, Lieutenant, tell us how the murders were committed.”  The spectators in the gallery quieted and a hush fell over the courtroom.
        Paulie kept his eyes on the jury.  “Based on the evidence from the crime scene, the Defendant went upstairs to the second floor.  Elaine Somerville died first, followed by Sandy Jones.”
        “Dr. Rivers and Professor Braganza have given us their findings,” King said.  “Continue, please.”
        “Yes, Sir.  Mr. Stevenson then went downstairs to the first floor and killed Charlotte Ramsey and Lacey King, then killed Sally Jones.  He then cleaned himself up with a towel that was found in the bathroom.”
        “Did he do anything else while in the bathroom?”
        “He wrote on the bathroom mirror.”
        “What did he write?”
        “Deus Lo Vult.”
        “And that means?”
        “’God Wills It.’”
        “I see.  Do we know why he wrote that?”
        “No, Sir.  The Defendant has not been forthcoming.”
        “And then what happened?”
        “The Defendant left the Otterholt house.”
        “And about what time was this?”
        “Starting sometime around two A.M. and ending after about a half-hour.”
        “Thank you, Lieutenant.  No further questions.”  King went back to his seat as Galbraith stood.
        The bulldog grasped the lapels of his robe and asked, “So, Lieutenant, why are there so many gaps in the story you’ve just given us?  Why don’t we know for certain who was murdered when?”
        “Mr. Stevenson has not told us.”
        “And he hasn’t told you why he did it?”
        “The theory we’ve advanced, based on witness testimony, is that Mr. Stevenson was angry with the women.”
        “Angry?  Why?”
        “Mr. Stevenson is – well, he was teased by the women because he was unable to satisfy them.  In bed, that is.”  Paulie blushed as several people in the gallery chuckled.
        “Ah.  And he told you this?”
        “No, Sir.”
        The bulldog favored the jury with a long look before asking, “Did Mr. Stevenson tell you why he wrote in Latin on the mirror?”
        “No, Sir.”
        Galbraith turned to Paulie, looking astonished.  “Do you mean he didn’t confess, Lieutenant?  When faced with the evidence and your theory of the crime, he didn’t collapse sobbing in his chair and beg to tell you all?”
        “No, Sir.  He has not confessed to the crimes.”
        “Ah!  So perhaps he didn’t do them, then?  Perhaps the State Police has got the wrong man?”
        King was on his feet.  “Objection!  Counsel for the Defense knows that there is no confession.”
        Before Kilbride could say anything Galbraith turned away from the red deer, flipping a paw nonchalantly.  “No further questions at this time.”
        The wolfhound harrumphed at the bulldog and said, “We shall recess for lunch until one o’clock, at which time the Defense shall present its case.”  He struck the Bench with his gavel and stood.